Ahmadinejad -- An Interview Worth Airing?

(AP Photo)
It hasn't aired yet but the reviews are already coming in for Mike Wallace's exclusive interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We took a look at what people are saying in the new comments feature to the article. Some are looking forward to seeing it, most are incensed that CBS would even air it. One commenter, gjd741, remembers Dan Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq and asks:
What is it with CBS? First Saddam Hussein, now this creep! Don't you guys have any allegiance to America anymore? Goodness, it is where you got your start and where your world headquarters are. I'm switching to Fox.
PrideUSA scolds the network:
Mike Wallace you should be ashamed of yourself! You should remember that Iran is part of the Axis of Evil. How dare you interview Iranian President. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the ENEMY. What on earth could you have been thinking when you sat down to have a conversation with the President of Iran? The interview hasn't aired yet so perhaps I'm wrong, maybe you really lashed out at Ahmadinejad and told him to halt their nuclear ambitions, remove their personnel from Lebanon and perhaps you told them that Israel has a God given right to exist. However considering the interview was held in the Presidential Palace in Tehran I seriously doubt that. My guess is that you were thinking of ratings and nothing more than the promotion of your network and your own self interest.
But frspeech is happy:
Thank you CBS News for giving us a chance to hear Iran's leader. If democracy is to flourish in our country, we need to know as much of the facts as possible. The administration's policy of attacking anyone who states a truth different from theirs is anti-democracy, anti-America. It takes courage to stand up to the mindless hate and hysteria that is being engendered by our power hungry leaders.

I am saddened by the ugly chanting of some of the people who choose to vomit their hate and bigotry into your chat forum. Please know there are still many Americans who hunger for the truth, who want to understand what is going on in the world, who do not wish to destroy any others just because they are different from us or because they have a resource we need.

Still, some critics are also taking issue with an interview Wallace gave to the Associated Press about Iran's leader:
Of Ahmadinejad, Wallace said, "He's an impressive fellow, this guy. He really is. He's obviously smart as hell."

Wallace said he was surprised to find that the Iranian president was still a college professor who taught a graduate-level course.

"You'll find him an interesting man," he said. "I expected more of a firebrand. I don't think he has the slightest doubt about how he feels ... about the American administration and the Zionist state. He comes across as more rational than I had expected."

Stephen Spruiell at NRO's Media Blog comments: "In America, don't we refer to 'the Zionist state' as Israel?"

You get the idea. Much of the dismay surrounds the fact that the interview itself even exists, that it is only giving Ahmadinejad a propaganda forum. We've dealt with this issue in the past on the practice of journalists interviewing insurgents in Iraq. I think there's no doubt this particular interview is newsworthy. This is a man who is locked in a dangerous and high-stakes game involving the United States and the rest of the world. Just because Ahmadinejad comes into the interview with his agenda does not mean it's unimportant or unworthy to see that.

The same thinking that says this interview should not have been conducted would also demand we not see the taped threats released by Osama bin Laden or other al Qaeda terrorists. Or that political candidates should never be interviewed because all they do is spin. The media is simply giving them a platform for propaganda. The media's job is to present information, the journalist's job is to ask the questions, the audience's job is to judge the answers. From the excerpts I've seen, the interivew contains little that surprises me. But I haven't seen the interview yet. And neither have any of those criticizing it. We should all wait until we do before rendering our verdicts on its worth.